Immigrant sisters facing deportation after calling Amsterdam home for 18 years
Sisters Sofia and Najoua Sabbar, aged 21 and 24, who applied for permanent residencies in the Netherlands after living there undocumented for about 18 years are now facing deportation, het Parool reported.The Moroccan citizens have had their permanent resident applications rejected twice by the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND), with the second rejection stating it is not in the interests of the Dutch State to give them the right to live in the Netherlands.
Their mother brought the two to the Netherlands when they were just three and seven years of age. She first fled her abusive husband just after Sofia was born in Morocco, taking the children with her to Spain. From there they arrived in Amsterdam Noord in 2003.
Over the years, the young women say they have moved more than 25 times. For about a decade, the two lived in a basement storage space with no windows located alongside an expressway, the newspaper reported. “We were happy with it. We thought: finally a permanent roof over our heads. Then you don't think, ‘There are no windows here,’” Najoua said.
During that time, and in spite of the difficult living circumstances, they managed to dive into their schoolwork and classroom lives, their only escape from a harsh reality. It was in school that the two said they were able to feel like normal children. They both graduated with secondary school diplomas, and have stated they want to pursue their further education in the Netherlands, but they can only do saw with legal residency.
“It creates enormous pressure. You always have to be the best. Always perform. Purely because we are illegal,” Najoua told the newspaper. In addition to completing their education, the sisters were also largely involved in social and charity work aimed at providing help to disadvantaged children and children of diverse backgrounds. “You feel that you have to compensate, because otherwise it will be used against you.”
Sofia and Najoua Sabbar tried to obtain legal status in the Netherlands in March 2019 once both of them had reached 18. Their application was denied a few months later, and their second attempt was denied by IND in March 2020. They were ordered to leave the Netherlands within four weeks and return to Morocco, despite speaking little Arabic and not a word of the Amazigh language.
“It was called a return. For us it was an eviction. Return to where? And to whom?" Najoua wondered.
They received legal assistance and appealed against the IND judgement, an office which is managed by the Ministry of Justice and Security. A court in Amsterdam reversed the IND decision, calling the sisters, “hard-working, ambitious, fully integrated 'Dutch' women, who make a positive contribution to Dutch society.’’
Initially, that provided some breathing space, Najoua said. That changed when the government decided to exercise its option to appeal the decision to a higher court. “We had perspective, but that is now gone. The appeal has brought everything to a standstill. Again I cannot register for the university.” Najoua wants to study law at a Dutch university.
Their attorney will file their position in the appellate case this week, and a ruling could be handed down in six to twelve months.
”We can both marry a Dutch friend and get a residence permit that way, but we don't want that. Because we believe in the Dutch legal system,” Sofia said. She hopes to study pedagogy at the Hogeschool van Amsterdam.